3 Pretty Lake Retreats Just in Time for Summer

Plus, what’s new to do onshore and off.

By Renee Brincks

Many of summer’s most quintessential scenes, with serene sunrises and light-drenched afternoons, take place along the country’s lakes. As if that isn’t reason enough to pack your bags, these waterfront escapes in Idaho, Iowa, and Missouri have new attractions and events to entice you this season.

Lake Pend Oreille

Idaho

Shimmering cobalt waters and rugged, glacier-carved shores distinguish Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille, which draws photographers, fishing enthusiasts, wildlife watchers, and adventurous families all summer long. In Sandpoint, Lake Pend Oreille Cruises (100 Bridge St.; 208-255-5253; daily Lake History Cruise, $24 a person) operates a seasonal history tour that details the geology and significance of the state’s largest lake. Or you can sign up for fireworks, full-moon, and eagle-spotting cruises that also depart from Sandpoint City Beach Park (58 Bridge St.; 208-263-3613), a popular picnic area in town. The easygoing Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail (208-946-7586) begins here, and it’s just blocks from the art galleries, craft-beer bars, and shops clustered downtown along First Avenue and Cedar Street. For a different kind of fun, check out the Festival at Sandpoint (525 Pine St.; 208-265-4554; ticket prices vary) this August. Its acts include Jackson Browne, the Avett Brothers, and Kool & the Gang.

Sixteen scenic miles away in the small town of Hope, The Floating Restaurant (47392 Hwy. 200; 208-264-5311; dinner for two, $40*) has a glass-walled dining room and open-air patio overlooking the water. Nearby, the Hope Marina (47392 Hwy. 200; 208-264-5106; two-hour boat rentals, from $75) rents boats and stocks gear for fishing trips and adventures on the lake.

Lake Okoboji

Iowa

Iowa’s Great Lakes region surrounds a chain of six sapphire lakes fronted by beaches, bicycle trails, and sprawling green spaces. Arnolds Park Amusement Park (37 Lake St., Arnolds Park; 712-332-2183; day passes, from $30) and its 1930s-era wooden roller coaster anchor the southeastern shore of West Lake Okoboji, where an aspen-lined promenade opens along the lakefront Preservation Plaza this summer. The plaza was once home to the Roof Garden, a 1923 dance hall that drew major touring bands to Arnolds Park. Now rebuilt and reopening just down the block, the new Roof Garden Ballroom (concert prices vary) will welcome Tommy James and the Shondells, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and other nostalgic acts for its inaugural summer concert season.

The Iowa Rock ’n Roll Hall of Fame Museum (243 W. Broadway St., Arnolds Park; 712-332-6540; admission, free) also reopens this summer after a renovation and introduces new exhibits and films that chronicle the state’s musical roots. And at the nearby Dickinson County Nature Center (22785 Nature Center Rd., Okoboji; 712-336-6352; admission, free), children can scale a human-size honeycomb and learn about how bees and butterflies benefit the earth in the new Pollinator Paradise wing.

Lake of the Ozarks

Missouri

There’s plenty of summertime fun to be had on the serpentine Lake of the Ozarks, which stretches across three counties in central Missouri. Families can paddle, pedal, float, and fish on or along its 1,150 miles of shoreline and check out the two pretty swimming beaches surrounded by hardwood forests at Lake of the Ozarks State Park (403 Hwy. 134, Kaiser; 573-348-2694; admission, free).

On land, hikers head to the bluffs of Ha Ha Tonka State Park (1491 State Rd. D, Camdenton; 573-346-2986; admission, free) for views of the water, while less active types may prefer the view from Shawnee Bluff Winery & Vineyard (2430 Bagnell Dam Blvd., Lake Ozark; 573-365-9935; drinks for two, $13), whose patio also overlooks the lake. Another treat for the grown-ups: the 13-course Lake of the Ozarks Golf Trail (1-800-490-8474), which includes fairways designed by Arnold Palmer and Robert Trent Jones Sr. Several courses wind through forests, foothills, and tranquil river valleys and offer views of the lake.

In the town of Osage Beach, Miner Mike’s Indoor Fun Center (4515 Osage Beach Pkwy., Osage Beach; 1-800-317-2126; season passes, from $30) tucks family-friendly carnival rides, arcade games, and bumper cars under one roof. Buster’s Garage, the facility’s newest addition, has an elevated electric go-kart track framed by vintage auto signs and Route 66 memorabilia that the kids are bound to love.

  • *Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax, or tip.
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: June 2019